1902 Encyclopedia > Predestination


PREDESTINATION is a theological term, sometimes used with greater latitude to denote the decree or purpose of God by which He has from eternity immutably deter-mined whatever comes to pass ; sometimes more strictly to denote the decree by which men are destined to everlasting happiness or misery; and sometimes with excessive strict-ness to denote only predestination to life or election.

The question to which the theory of predestination supplies an answer, although it has a special interest to Christian thought, yet arises in all minds which are occupied with the problems of human existence. That question is, To what cause can we refer the diversities in human character, fortunes, and destiny? The Greek tragedians made it their business to exhibit the helplessness of man in his strife against fate. Sometimes indeed they explicitly distinguish fate from a mere pitiless and non-moral sove-reignty and identify it with the Nemesis which pursues hereditary or individual guilt j and sometimes—as in the case of GMipus—they follow the history of the sufferer for the sake of showing how the predestined and inevitable transgression and punishment educate the character. But the idea which fascinates and pursues them is that man can-not escape his destiny, that his life is woven with a " shuttle of adamant," and that when God means to destroy a man He makes evil seem good to him (Soph., Antig., 622-24). The Greek philosophy tended in the same direction; and the Stoic doctrine of necessity or providence, though based on a broad and thoroughly philosophical view of nature and of man's place in it, was entangled in the very diffi-culties which attach to Calvinism.

tion : " if by predestinating ad interitum we understand the causing and effectual working of any man's destruction, God cannot be said prsedestinare ad interitum : but if we only understand the foreordain-ing of those to damnation whom God foresaw deserving and working the same, we neither think nor speak otherwise than the orthodox Fathers did " (Animadversions, &c., p. 41).

Among the Jewrs the Sadducees carried their defence of free will so far as to deny predestination; while the Pharisees and Essenes ran to the other extreme and left no place for human freedom (Josephus, Antiq., xviii. 1, 3, 4 ; xiii. 5, 9).

In Islam the subject of predestination has produced endless controversy. The orthodox doctrine is thus stated by Al-Berkevi. " It is necessary to confess that good and evil take place by the predestination and predetermination of God, that all that has been and all that will be was de-creed in eternity and written on the preserved table ; that the faith of the believer, the piety of the pious, and their good actions are foreseen, willed, predestinated, decreed by the writing on the preserved table produced and approved by God : that the unbelief of the unbeliever, the impiety of the impious, and bad actions come to pass with the foreknowledge, will, predestination, and decree of God, but not with His satisfaction and approval. Should any ask why God willeth and produceth evil, we can only reply that He may have wise ends in view which we cannot comprehend." Some Mohammedan teachers (disciples of Al-Ash'ari) endeavour to maintain the consistency of this doctrine with man's freedom and responsibility; but prac-tically the Sunnite or orthodox Mohammedans believe that by the force of God's eternal decree man is constrained to act thus or thus. From this there has resulted, on the one hand, the Epicurean pessimism of 'Omar Khayyam—

" 'Tis all a chequer-board of nights and days Where destiny with men for pieces plays : Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays, And one by one back in the closet lays "

— or the weak recklessness of the poet Faizi: " Before thou and I were thought of, our freewill was taken from us; be without cares for the Maker of both worlds settled our affairs long before we were made." On the other hand, there has resulted the freethinking (Mo'tazilite) reaction, to which the Shiahs incline and which rehabilitates freewill at the expense of the divine sovereignty.

Within the Christian church there have in like manner always existed two opposed beliefs regarding predestina-tion, which have received their ultimate development and expression in the Calvinistic and Arminian systems respect-ively. The Calvinistic doctrine of predestination is that "from all eternity God chose or elected some men—certain definite persons of the human race—to everlasting life; that He decreed or determined certainly and infallibly, and not conditionally and mutably, to bring those persons to salvation by a Redeemer; that in making this selection of some men, and in decreeing to save them, He was not in-fluenced or determined by anything existing in them or foreseen in them—such as faith or good works—by which they were distinguished from other men, or by anything out of Himself, or by any reason known to us or compre-hensible by us; and that this eternal purpose or decree He certainly and infallibly executes, in regard to each and every one included under it; while all the rest of men not thus elected He decreed to pass by,—to leave in their natural state of sin and misery, and finally to jmnish eter-nally for their sin." The Arminian doctrine of predestination (see ARMINIUS) is that God has from eternity decreed to give eternal life to as many as repent and believe, and foreseeing who shall repent and believe He has determined to give life to these. The " peremptory " election of individuals to life eternal proceeds only on the foreknowledge of their faith and obedience, so that, as the Remonstrants explicitly affirmed, the decree proper in predestination is that decree by which it is determined on what grounds or conditions God assigns sinners to salvation. The differ-ence between these two views of predestination is wide, and, when logically carried out, radical. The Calvinist maintains that God absolutely decrees the salvation of a certain fixed number of definite persons, and in pursuance of this decree infallibly secures their salvation; the Armi-nian maintains that God's decree, so far as it concerns the salvation of individuals, is conditional upon their use of the means of grace. That which constitutes Arminianism is the denial that God absolutely elects individuals to eternal life; and that which lies at the root of Calvinism, and out of which all that is characteristic of the system springs, is the affirmation that God does absolutely elect certain individuals to life eternal, and in pursuance of this decree works in them all that constitutes life eternal. Accord-ing to Calvinism, salvation is the work of God. Seeing men to be all alike helplessly involved in sin and misery, God determined to save some, not on account of any good in them but for some inscrutable but necessarily wise and just reasons, and because of this determination He gives to those whom He wills to save, and enables them to receive and retain, all that is involved in salvation,—renewal of will, union to Christ, holiness of life, the indwelling Spirit.

The doctrine of predestination was first formulated in the church by Augustine. The Pelagian idea that man is competent to determine his own character, conduct, and destiny was repugnant to him, and he strove to show that the initial and determining element in the salvation of the individual is not the human but the divine will. He based his position upon the doctrine of original sin and the consequent depravity of the will. This doctrine represents the whole human race as involved in moral ruin, guilty and sinful, incapable of self-regeneration or of willing what is good. By God alone, therefore, can regeneration and deliverance be accomplished. The salvation designed by God must not be allowed to depend for its efficacy on the depraved and incapable will of man ; it must be an absolute act of power on God's part. Provision must be made not only for the offer but for the acceptance of grace. In a word, grace must be effectual or irresistible. Hence Augustine distinguished between " assistance without which a thing cannot be done" and "assistance by which a thing is done" (the Jansenist adjutorium sine quo non, and adjutorium quo, assisting and efficacious or irresistible grace). By every device of language he throws the whole work of salvation upon God ("facit credentes," "data sunt et ipsa merita quibus datur," " non solum mentes bonas adjuvat, verum etiam bonas eas facit"). This is the distinctive characteristic of the dispensation of redemption, that it depends not on man's will but on God's. "A dispensation which left the salvation of man dependent on his will was highly suitable as a first one, suitable alike to the justice of the Creator and the powers of the untried creature, and such as we should naturally expect at the beginning of things; but such having been the nature of the first, the second must, for that very reason, be a dispensation of a different kind, effecting its design not by a conditional but by an absolute saving act." This absolute saving act being an act of God, and it being maintained by all theologians that whatever God Himself does in time He has from eternity decreed to do, we have the doctrine of predestina-tion. As Aquinas tersely puts the kernel of the Augustinian doctrine : " It is manifest that whatever is of grace is the effect of predestination." With Augustine grace is nothing else than predestination realized. Grace is irresistible because it is God's instrument in fulfilling His decree. This carries with it a refutation of the three modified forms of predestinarían doctrine which continually seek to make good for themselves a position within the church. It maintains (1) that men are elected not to means of grace only but to grace itself. Salvation is infallibly secured to the elect (De Dono Persev., passim).

It maintains (2) that not nations or the church but individuals are the object of predestination,—a certain fixed number, " so certain that no one can be added to it or taken from it" (De Corr. et Gratia, 13). And (3) this predestination must be founded, not on foreseen good in man, but on the inscrutable but necessarily just will of God (De Prxd. Sanct., 17).1

About the middle of the 9th century Gottschalk attempted to revive Augustinianism (see GOTTSCHALK). His teaching regarding predestination was precisely that of his master, and as such it was maintained by Remigius of Lyons in opposition to the blundering and intolerant Hincmar of Rheims. Hincmar admitted predestination to life and also the consequent abandonment of the rest of men to their sinful state, and yet he mercilessly persecuted Gottschalk for maintaining a predestination to punish-ment, and sought to establish a distinction between leaving men in a state which involves punishment and ordaining them to punishment. Remigius exposed the futility of such a distinction, and showed that "the abandonment of a certain portion of mankind to the state of sin in which they are born is predestinarían reprobation, whether we express it as abandonment to sin or as ordaining to punishment." The discussion, however, extensive and heated as it was, did not go deeply into the substance of the controversy. The incident which gave a distinctive character to this period of the development of the doctrine 1 See Mozley, Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination.

As Augustine thus constructed the doctrine of predestination as an integral part of the evangelical system, he necessarily spoke much more of election than of reprobation ; but he did not shrink from acknowledging, with all intelligent predestinarians, that the election of some involved the passing by (praiteritio) of the rest: " for the rest, where are they but in that mass of perdition where the Divine justice most justly leaves them ?" (De Dono Persev., 14). "If God from eternity absolutely elected some unto the infallible attainment of grace and glory, we cannot but grant that those who are not com-prised within this absolute decree are as absolutely passed by as the others are chosen " (Bishop Davenant's Animad-versions, p. 4). All men being naturally under condem-nation, it seemed to Augustine no injustice that in some that condemnation should take effect; and, if it is sug-gested that it would at all events have been better had all been saved, he is content to reply, "Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God ?" He has no hesita-tion, therefore, in using the expressions " prsedestinati ad interitum," or " ad seternam mortem," or " damnationi prsedestinati"; and in using these expressions he indicates that there are some to whom God has decreed not to give saving grace, and that He foresaw that these persons would sin and be damned. He does not bring the decree of reprobation into direct, and of course not into causal, . connexion with the sins of the reprobate, holding that, while the decree of God is the efficient cause of all good in the elect, the cause of sin in the reprobate is the evil will of man. He denies that God's foreknowledge of man's sin makes that sin necessary, but he nowhere ex-haustively discusses the distinction between foreknowledge and decree. When pushed to defend God's justice in creat-ing those whose damnation He foreknew, he responds to the challenge sometimes by showing that, so far as the Creator's responsibility is concerned, the creature which sins with free will is of a higher kind than that which cannot sin because it has no free will; sometimes on the ground that it contributes to God's glory that His retributive justice should be manifested ; and sometimes on the ground that in the destruction of sinners the elect will see what God's goodness has saved them from.


was the appeal for aid which Hincmar made to John Scotus Erigena; for in the tract on predestination which Erigena wrote in response to this appeal he introduced the terms and methods of philosophy and sought a solu-tion for the problem in the nature of God. He argued that, God being eternal, foreknowledge and predestination, which are temporal relations, could only improperly be predicated of Him. He argued also that sin and its con-sequences in death and misery are nonentities, the mere corruption, defect, or privation of their opposite realities, and that therefore they can neither be caused by God nor be known by Him. Reprobation is therefore impossible. Still further, he argued that evil is only a stage in the development of good, and that the ultimate issue of the development is universal return to God. This orthodoxy was considered more dangerous than the heresy it was called in to resist. Prudentius, Ratramnus, Lupus, and Floras denounced the introduction of this style of discus-sion, for which indeed the mind of the church was not at that time prepared. Not only did interested individuals resist the teaching of Erigena, but two councils condemned his treatise as containing " hsereses plurimas, ineptas quaes-tiunculas, et aniles pajne fabellas, pluribus syllogismis conclusas, Scotorumque pultes puritati fidei nauseam in-ferentes." Accordingly no additional light on the problem was received by the church at this time.

This controversy, however, was merely the prelude to a discussion which was maintained throughout the scholastic period, and in which the Thomists adopted the more rigid Augustinian view, while the Scotists leaned to Semi-pelagianism. Anselm and Peter Lombard were moderately and guardedly Augustinian. Thomas Bradwardine (archbishop of Canterbury, d. 1349) complained that almost the whole world had fallen into Pelagianism, and strenu-ously opposed this tendency. But it is in Aquinas (Summa, 1, Q. xxiii.) that we find the clearest and most compact treatment of the subject. His doctrine is sub-stantially that of Augustine. In express terms he teaches that predestination is an essential part of the divine providence, and that, as some, and these a fixed number, are ordained to life eternal, so by the same divine providence others are allowed to fail of this end (" et hoc dicitur reprobare"). He teaches further that this pre-destination does not depend upon any foreseen difference of character ("prsescientia meritorum non est causa vel ratio prEedestinationis "). Aquinas derives his doctrine of predestination directly from his doctrine of God (not from his anthropology, as Augustine had done). His idea of God was the Aristotelian "first mover, itself unmoved." That God is in all things by His power, presence, and essence he explicitly maintains against three forms of error regarding the connexion of God and the world. The divine will is the cause of all things past, present, and to come.

But the contribution made by Aquinas consists in his theory of the divine concurrence, by which he seeks to provide a philosophical basis for Augustinianism. The divine providence governs all things by means of two great classes of secondary causes, the necessary or natural and the contingent or voluntary. The mediate or proxi-mate causes of all that takes place in the natural world are necessary; the proximate causes of human action are the voluntary motions of the will. But both are set in motion by God, the First Cause : as the actings of natural causes remain natural, though they are moved by God, so do the actings of voluntary causes remain voluntary though moved by God. But obviously this theory leaves only an appearance of free will. " Free will is here reconciled and made consistent with the divine power, brought into the same scheme and theory. But it is of itself a sufficient test that a system is necessitarian, that it maintains the divine power in harmony with free will. The will as an original spring of action is irreconcilable with the divine power"—at least with the scholastic idea of the divine power—" a second first cause in nature being inconsistent with there being only one First Cause." Besides, every theory of predestination which bases itself on the idea that God is the sole originating and true cause must give an account of the origin of evil. Aquinas recognizes this and endeavours to meet the requirement by showing (1) that to a complete universe all kinds of creatures are requisite, not only the highest but the lowest; (2) that there cannot be a perfect universe without the existence of free will, but that this involves the risk of evil; and (3) that evil is a negation. Of these arguments there are hints in the writings of Augustine and Erigena, and none of them is satisfactory, although they certainly point in the right direction.

At the Reformation the discussion was drawn back from the endeavour initiated by the schoolmen to find for the doctrine of predestination a scientific basis in the nature of God and His connexion with the world. The more circumscribed method of Augustine was reverted to, and it was deemed sufficient to show that predestination was indispensable to the ideas of grace which found a response in the devout Christian consciousness, and that it was in harmony with Scripture. Not only Calvin, but much more unguardedly Luther, and even Melanchthon in the earliest (1521) edition of his Loci Communes, taught the most rigid Augustinian doctrine. In the later editions (1535, 1543) Melanchthon greatly modified his opinions and inclined more to the synergistic view, though even in this he was not thoroughgoing. But the attempt to terminate the synergistic controversy saddled the Lutherans with a symbol—the formula concordiee—which, awkwardly enough, rejected both the Semipelagian theory of co-operation and the Augustinian doctrine of predestination. The consequence has been that later Lutheran theologians, in their efforts to purge their church of this inconsistency, have devised the theory that man, unable as he is to will any good thing, can yet use the means of grace, and that these means of grace, carrying in themselves a divine power, produce a saving effect on all who do not volun-tarily oppose their influence. Baptism, e.g., confers grace which, if not resisted, is saving. And God, foreseeing who will and who will not resist the grace offered, pre-destinates to life all who are foreseen as believers.

The theory of Calvin (Inst., i. 15-18; iii. 21-24) need not be detailed, because it is Augustinian not only in its substance but in the methods and grounds by which it is sustained. Hagenbach (Hist, of Doctrines, iii. 103) and others have indeed asserted that Calvin held the supra-lapsarian theory, and in so far differed from Augustine. But in order to prove Calvin or any one else a supra-lapsarian it is not enough to show that he believed that the fall was decreed, for this is admitted by Augustine and all sublapsarians; it must be shown that the fall was decreed as a means towards carrying out a previous decree to save some and leave others to perish,—a view which Calvin turns from as an otiosa curiositas. The supra-lapsarian view was, however, adopted by Beza and other Calvinists, as it had been held by some of the Augustinian schoolmen; and indirectly this led to the reopening of the controversy in the beginning of the 17th century. For it is said to have been the extreme supralapsarianism of Perkins which repelled Arminius from Calvinism and led him to promulgate the opinions which are known as Arminianism, and which led to the summoning of the synod of Dort (see ARMINIUS and DORT). The canons of Dort, while not definitively exclusive of supralapsarianism, are favourable to the sublapsarian view; and the West-minster divines followed the lead of Dort in constructing their Confession so as to admit of signature by either party.

Meanwhile the Church of Eome had been torn by similar diversities of opinion. The council of Trent was careful not to offend the Dominicans by explicitly repudi-ating Augustinian doctrine. But, as time went on, the Jesuit MOLINA (q.v.) stirred the sleeping controversy by a well-meant and decidedly able attempt to reconcile free will and God's foreknowledge. A still more serious dis-turbance was created by the strenuous efforts of Jansen to revive the decaying Augustinianism of the church. But neither then nor in more recent times has anything essential been added to the argument on either side ; and until our knowledge of the freedom of the will becomes more scientific—that is, more accurate, thorough, and reliable—it is impossible that the argument can advance. During the last two centuries the discussion in England has turned not so directly on the truth or falsity of Calvinism as upon the question whether the Church of England Articles are or are not Calvinistic. This question has been reopened at various times—at the dismissal of Baro from the Margaret professorship at Cambridge at the close of the 16th century; on occasion of Dr Samuel Clarke's plea for Arian subscription; in connexion with the Wesleyan claim that the Articles favoured Arminianism; and again, in this century, in the Bampton lectures of Archbishop Lawrence. The arguments which may be gathered from the actual terms of the seventeenth Article itself are very fairly stated by Bishop Burnet, who, though himself an Arminian, frankly allows that Calvinists can sign the Article with less scruple than Arminians, " since the Article does seem more plainly to favour them." The historical facts regarding the theological school to which the framers of the Articles belonged are very fully given in Goode's Effects of Infant Baptism. In Germany, not-withstanding Herder's dismissal of the subject of pre-destination with the curse, "May the hand wither that shall ever bring it back," theologians still range themselves in opposite camps,—Kliefoth, Frank, and Sartorius advocating the Augustinian doctrine, while Thomasius, Hofmann, and Luthardt attempt a middle course.

Lipsius justly observes that the solution of the problem of pre-destination is the solution of the religious problem in general. The Augustinian theory is not an isolated doctrine which may be accepted or rejected without any material alteration of fundamental beliefs. It is rather a deliverance upon the relation which subsists between God and the world,—that is, upon the radical problem of philosophy. No doubt it is rather in a theological than in a philosophical interest that the subject has usually been debated. It has been felt that the Augustinian theory accords better with the devout humility of the religious spirit, and lays a sure ground for hopeful confidence ; while the opposed theory is considered to be more likely to excite human effort and secure a more satisfactory level in conduct, if not a higher spiritual condition. Both parties have been influenced by a perhaps somewhat officious zeal for the divine reputation, the one party being concerned to maintain God's sovereignty, the other His goodness. Our ignorance of the divine nature, and our inability to apprehend the subtlety of His connexion with the world, have not been sufficiently allowed for by either party. Is God the absolute sovereign without whose will no indi-vidual act is done ? Is He in all things by His essence and will ? Then the Calvinistic scheme seems alone legitimate. As Calvin himself argues, if God has not absolutely decreed all things, then " ubi erit ilia Dei omnipotentia, qua secundum arcanum consilium, quod aliunde non pendet, omnia moderatur?" (Inst., iii. 23, 7). And yet, if God's sovereignty is thus universal, can the freedom of the human will be preserved in more than name ? Is not the world of human thought and action reduced to a mere play of puppets, a pantheistic sham ? If God's will has determined all that is to he, what real power of origination is left to man ? He who determines upon a certain event sets in operation such causes as will produce it, and is himself its proper efficient cause. If God is thus the real cause of all that is, the universe would seem to be merely God evolving Himself, and there has been no true creation, no bringing into being of wills separate from His own.

The grave difficulty, therefore, with which the strict doctrine of predestination has always to contend is its apparent inconsistency with human accountability. It is accused generally of colliding with human freedom, and particularly of representing God as the author of sin. This consequence of their teaching Calvinists repudiate. They maintain that by God's foreordination of whatsoever comes to pass "violence is not offered to the will of the creature"; and they have adopted various methods of relieving their doctrine from the odium of this charge. The character of an act has been separated from its substance or actuality, and, while its character is ascribed to man's free will, its actuality is referred to God's sustaining energy. Or it has been supposed that God may have created men with the power of originating action, so that, though dependent upon God for life, yet when kept in life men can act freely. But this scarcely meets the difficulty, for Calvinism maintains that each individual act is determined by God. Others again prefer to relegate these seeming contradictions to the region of the unknowable, and to say with Locke : " I cannot have a clearer perception of anything than that I am free, yet I cannot make freedom in man consistent with omnipotence and omniscience in God, though I am as fully persuaded of both as of any truth I most firmly assent to ; and therefore I have long since given off the consideration of that question, resolving all into the short conclusion that if it be possible for God to make a free agent, then man is free, though I see not the way of it." (M. D.)

The above article was written by: Rev. Marcus Dods, D.D.

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